After a lot of efforts from the Oman Automobile Association (OAA), Nasser al Attiyah of Qatar, who was crowned the FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC) champion recently in Jordan, has agreed to take part in the forthcoming 2015 Oman International Rally, which will be held from November 5-7.
The organisers have announced the provisional entry list for the rally, which is the seventh round of the MERC.
Attiyah starts as the top seed, while Abu Dhabi Racing’s Sheikh Khalid al Qassimi lines up at No 2 in his Citroen DS3 RRC.
Attiyah clinched the regional title in Jordan three weeks ago and could equal Mohammed ben Sulayem’s record of 60 MERC victories if he can achieve success in Oman.
Qassimi is a former winner of Oman’s premier motor sport event, which will take place over 13 timed gravel special stages. The UAE driver will team up with Northern Irishman Chris Patterson as he chases an eighth MERC event win.
Patterson, meanwhile, is the third most successful co-driver in Middle East rally history and needs one more victory to join Italy's Giovanni Bernacchini on 25 wins.
Oman’s return to regional rallying has attracted 20 entries, with Attiyah, Qassimi and Qatar’s Abdulaziz al Kuwari and Khalid al Suwaidi gracing the top four seeds.
The host nation is also well represented with ten entrants. Khalid al Minji and his navigator Saif al Aisri lead the Omani crew in their Subaru Impreza.
Other local drivers include Saif al Harthy of OVT Rally Team, Zakariya al Aufi, Faisal al Rashdi, Humaid al Waili, Hamid al Qasmi, Haitham al Zadjali, Zakariya Said, Ahmed al Zadjali and Ehab al Zadjali.
The Kuwaiti duo of Meshari al Thafiri and Salah bin Eidan, Germany’s Edith Weiss and Qatar’s Rashid al Naimi are vying for Group N Championship points, while Abu Dhabi Racing has also entered a pair of two-wheel drive Citroen DS3 R3s for the UAE drivers, Saeed Bintowq and Mansoor Bel Helai.
“We are delighted to see so many local teams on the entry list for our return to the MERC,” said Suleiman al Rawahi, the event director of the Oman International Rally.
“We have strength in depth on the entry list and we are sure that the competitors will enjoy the challenging terrain and special stages that make the Oman Rally so popular and so demanding.”
The event will take place at the OAA’s headquarters. The ceremonial start takes place at 6pm on November 5 and precedes the opening super special stage at 6.45pm. Six timed tests will take place over the next two days.
Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) president and FIA vice-president Nasser Khalifa al Attiyah was all praise for the Oman Rally organisers.
“I would like to congratulate Oman for the sincere efforts put in by the OAA. They have shown Oman’s capabilities as a host country and as a real supporter for motor sport at both local and international levels,” he said.
Of late, Oman has hosted several FIA-certified training courses, especially those related to safety aspects.
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